SUMMER ADVENTURES: Evidence of a Prehistoric Lifestyle

The Brooks River barabara, a reconstruction of a house dated to about 1200 AD
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Several prehistoric trade routes intersected in the Brooks Camp area and there was a village on the site for more than six thousand years. A reconstruction of one of the 900 early dwellings that have been excavated nearby gives some insight into the lives of the people who lived here.

The semi-subterranean houses, called barabaras, were built of logs with a deeper excavation at the entrance that served as a cold-sink to drain away the cold air. A dome-shaped framework of wood, insulated with sod, formed the roof. There would have been a central fire that made it very smoky and warm inside.

These early people lived to the age of 100 years or more; their longevity is usually credited to the mineral-rich water from the glaciers, but their diet of salmon and caribou was no doubt an important factor as well. Layer upon layer of dried salmon would have been stored on the floor inside the dwelling; the occupants literally lived on top of their winter food supply. (They killed bears to get rid of them, but not for food. The bears died from infection caused by embedded projectiles.)

In reading about the history of Alaska, I came across a quote from a French navigator who was one of the first to explore the lands bordering the Bering Sea. What he had to say about the indigenous people shows that contempt for low-carb diets has been around for a long time:
“Rude and barbarous as their soul is wild and rugged, they inhabit the country only to extirpate every thing that lives and moves upon it. At war with every animal, they despise the vegetables that spring up around them. I have seen women and children eat a few raspberries or strawberries, but these are no doubt insipid to the palates of men, who are precisely on the earth what the vulture is, in the air, or the wolf and tiger in the forest.” –Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de la Pérouse, 1786

© 2008, Judy Barnes Baker

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